What Business Can Learn From a Squirrel

Whether it’s cold or warm outside my  back door, one constant around the bird feeders are the irrepressible squirrels. They never give up. They stick with their DNA-imbued mission. Nothing we people can do mutes or trumps their drive to do what a squirrel’s got to do.

I watched a couple of combatants battling for the best of my sunflower seeds on my porch this morning, when it suddenly occurred that I was seeing a life lesson. And I realized that marketers could take more than a few cues from these industrious critters.

Lesson one: Protect Your Nuts.

You have assets, values, ideas that represent the foundation of what you do well. Like the determined creatures out back, you must identify and seize upon those core values that make you and your company authentic, valuable, irreplaceable, and you’ve got to fight to keep those things. That takes determination, identification, constancy and realization … and the will to work hard to protect and tout those essential assets if you expect to survive another year.

Lesson two: Find and Discover New Nuts.

Its brain is smaller than yours … a lot smaller and a lot less sophisticated … but every squirrel understands that it will never survive by being satisfied with the nuts it knows. Discovery is part of the survival business of being a squirrel and it should be yours, too.  A great PR partner can help your business discover what you may not find on your own.

Lesson three: Never Assume the Old Storehouse Will Still be There.

Squirrels thrive on urgency. So should you. Like that birdseed thief on your patio, you’ve got to move fast, with constancy, to find new opportunities. Some opportunities will feed your business for a while, but none lasts forever.  We’re schooled in John Kotter’s Harvard Business School research on the need for what’s called a burning platform beneath you.  Urgency fuels continual investment to feed your future.  It’s prerequisite to your success, today and for as many tomorrows as you still have.  The right strategic communication tools institutionalize urgency and help you to prosper.

Lesson four: Climb and Stretch Without Fear.

Squirrels take measured, successful risks. They’re unafraid of stretching the boundaries of what they’ve done in the past. Their athleticism at making good on their mission carries a lesson for all of us. We need to be more fearless about discovering new things.  We should all be as willing to take leaps of faith in ourselves, challenge old assumptions and processes.  Again, the right PR partner (Quicksilver Edge) can help you identify those moments and opportunities. With the right partner you can leap without fear.

Lesson Five: Make Noise and Proudly Wave Your Tail.

Success breeds success, both internally and external to your organization. No one will notice your success or your worth unless you take pains to signal what you are and what you bring to your business environment.  Squirrels are irrepressible. You ought to be irrepressible too. But when your forte is, in essence, nut supply and multiplication, it doesn’t make you an expert in all the other aspects of success — like marketing, publicity, reputation, respect and trust. Squirrels do it all. You can’t.

Let us help. Sitting on your nuts today won’t grow you an oak grove tomorrow. We can help you locate new opportunities, act with urgency, help you stretch your capabilities and let the world know that you’re a serious asset that’ll be around for a long time to come.

Just like those little guys in your back yard.

The Democracy of Choosing Marketing Channels

One of the most frustrating aspects of democracy is that there’s no requirement to do research before casting a vote. I could spend hours studying candidates’ positions, histories and promises only to have my vote cancelled out by someone who picked their guy by the signs on their neighbor’s lawn. Yet any solution to this would in itself be undemocratic; quizzing voters at the booths, giving weight to votes based on education or otherwise hindering uninformed voting would skew representation toward the educated middle class and away from those who need it most.

Our partner Debra Bethard-Caplick and I were talking about this at lunch the other day when an idea popped into my head for five seconds before I bit my tongue. “Voter turnout is at an all-time low, but the government is spending lots of money on ads to fix this. Why don’t they just choose their marketing channels based on who is likely to do research before voting?”Obviously I took this back as it would have the same skewed effects as my earlier examples. But it still led to a long discussion about the ethics of a publicly funded campaign for anything electoral. Continue Reading

Diversity IQ Blind Spots

Ask a company executive – CEO, marketing exec, HR person – how they’re doing when it comes to diversity, and the probable response is “we’ve got this,” or something like it.

But even smart people don’t see what they don’t see. And most have an expensive blind spot in ageism.

That might be you too, a diversity IQ gap that hurts people and repels customers. Given psychographic and demographic changes across society it could cost you your business future, too.

Americans who become more experienced over time learn more about how to spend money on things and experiences they enjoy, desire or need, also learn who it is that respects them.

Companies spend billions refining language and marketing that appeals to multinational, gender and race segments, but ignore people they apparently label as “old.” Doing so makes claims of corporate values and ethics somewhat hypocritical. Continue Reading

Avoid Change at Your Own Peril – But Don’t Just Take Our Word For It.

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, had it right. We always think we have more time than we do.  This is as true of business as it is individual life. As others have rightly said before, it’s a sad mistake that we spend so much time endlessly waiting for tomorrow.   One day, you wake up and realize that there IS no more time to try what you promised you would, or to accomplish what you assumed you could. But then there you are. Wishing, mulling over the past, maybe cursing your bad luck while, if we’re honest, where we are and how things are largely about our own choices.

In 2035, 21 years from now, businesses and business owners who are thriving today could be on the far outside of success, outside a bubble looking in.  If this turns out to be someone you know, it could be because that person put off then-uncomfortable change in attitude and strategy that could have permanently changed things for the better. Continue Reading

Consumer Respect One Way is the Wrong Way

I have to assume that finding our way into an elephant graveyard of forgotten companies, products and services is not what we intend.   But if our communication is mostly one-way, that’s where we may be headed. Long-term success requires two-way communication, conversation, and a permanent commitment to building from that. The only possible exception might be that of the person or company who has cornered the market on something that everyone has to have.  And even then, things eventually change. Exxon-Mobile and Chevron, for example, don’t have to listen to you or hear your problems because you need gas to get to work and go to grandma’s.  That could, of course, change in time. But for now, complain all you want about the choosing between a fill-up and new shoes for little Katya. They don’t care. Continue Reading

Marketing to Boomers? You’re Doing it Wrong.

As the managing partner of a PR firm specializing in generational communication, explaining what I do for a living to a college student the other day, I was met with a puzzled look. “Why do you need to focus on a specific generation? It’s the same product you’re promoting either way.”

Well, yes it is, but it isn’t. The reason we decided to focus on generational communication and marketing is simple. We’ve seen too many businesses waste money developing messaging that is at best irrelevant and at worst insults the target audience – and most of us here at QSE are Boomers. Continue Reading